Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks with journalists at his office in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
(photo credit: AFP PHOTO)
Israel has been too soft on Fatah and Palestinian Authority leaders who promote incitement to terrorism, a former Military Intelligence senior officer told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of the Research Division at Military Intelligence, said that a decision by PA President Mahmoud Abbas last year to talk about “dangers” to the Al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem in speeches was a way to signal to Palestinians that he wanted “popular resistance,” which then turned into a five-month-long wave of knife, gun, and car ramming attacks against Israelis.
Kuperwasser is now the Director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, where he recently published a paper outlining his position.
He was asked to comment on current military intelligence assessments that attribute the violence primarily to social media incitement, and call for greater economic opportunities and the introduction of a diplomatic horizon as steps to calm the area.
“These have a role. But first and foremost, it was the decision by Palestinian leaders in October, according to which, they needed something more significant to bring world attention to the Palestinian issue. The leadership saw that the world was tired of the Palestinian issue, and wasn’t dealing with it. Abbas gave two speeches, one of which was about the need to ‘do something’ regarding al-Aksa.”
There was no explicit order to commit acts of terrorism, Kuperwasser said, but Abbas did “act in a way that allowed everyone to understand what he wanted. He talked about the need to prevent infiltration of settlers to al-Aksa.
He has not stopped talking about the importance of ‘popular resistance.’” Kuperwasser outlined his views in his paper, entitled The Palestinian Knife Campaign: A Policy of Limited Liability.
“It is not surprising, then, that up to this point the Palestinians are quite satisfied with the results of the campaign, and in discussions held by the Fatah Central Committee and other leaderships forums, the decision was made to continue supporting and encouraging this effort unabatedly. The assumption of the leadership is that the terrorism campaign would continue as long as there is no decision to stop it. This is based on the assessment that the psychological inculcation of the Palestinian youth will guarantee that at any given time, there will still be young Palestinians who will decide to go out and stab a Jew.
Just like popcorn kernels explode in the microwave at random with no indication when the first will explode and which will not, so are the Palestinian youngsters randomly ready to explode when the indirect message comes from their leadership.”
Abbas is fearful of Hamas, and does not want it to do “worse things,” Kuperwasser said. “He tries to control the level [of violence], and is frightened of losing control,” he added. “It is a complex situation.”
Israel, for its part, should “increase the pressure on the Palestinian leadership,” and not make due with only responding directly to the terrorists, Kuperwasser added.
“There is no price for encouraging the Palestinian public to continue carrying out attacks. I think this is too soft. I do not see any effort to change their [the Palestinian leadership’s] policy. They can continue to support terrorism, refrain from condemning it, and there is no price for that.”
Kuperwasser, formerly director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, added in his paper that “the availability of the stealth terrorism tool” is a “result of the long-standing and ongoing incitement and the inculcation of the people in the pillars of Palestinian national identity, with particular impact on children’s psychological make-up.”
Introducing religiously sensitive issues easily turns this option into action, “almost instantly,” he added.
He cited “the existence of a comprehensive Palestinian strategy adopted in the sixth Fatah conference in 2009, which is based on a combination of unilateral diplomatic effort in the international arena and ‘popular resistance,’ of which the current terrorism campaign is an example.”